Hop on Board this Burger

Houston has finally gotten our first Hopdoddy Burger Bar location - the Austin-grown-burger chain established in 2010 that has been dubbed "The Best Burgers in America" by Rachael Ray. Let's get to the reason for the name first - "Hop" is the flower used to flavor beer, and "doddy" is the nickname given to the original Angus of Aberdeen, Scotland. 

Before I focus on the burgers, for full disclosure, I have to tell you that I reached out to Hopdoddy's corporate team, and I was invited to try out their new River Oaks District Location as a member of the media. All food and liquor that I consumed was paid for by Hopdoddy. Now, it's on to the burgers.

Opening up to long lines, two and a half hours during my visit, Hopdoddy's debut was monumental. Friends I ran into got in line at 11am, and were finishing up as I was walking in 4 hours later, but they assured me the burgers were delicious. This visit was not my first one, as I had feasted on burgers at their South Congress location in Austin last year. That visit left me unimpressed as my burger was average in my opinion. However, I really wanted to like HopDoddy, so I certainly gave them another chance in my hometown.

After being seated, I was presented with two generous orders of specialty fries, along with a nice glass of Garrison Brothers bourbon on the rocks. The truffle fries (all fries are hand-cut from select Kennebec potatoes from Maine) were thin and crispy, just the way I like them, and these were enhanced with a nice shaving of parmesan cheese, spices, and a drizzle of truffle oil that did not overpower or drench the fries. A second order was a sampling of their queso fries - green chile queso and chili con queso. Focusing on the tasty truffle fries, I barely noticed these cheesy selections.

Hopdoddy lists 12 burgers on their menu, so there is something for everyone, including Akaushi, Angus, Bison, vegetarian, turkey, chicken, lamb and tuna options. The choice took some thought, but after carefully reviewing the burger alternatives, I landed on the Llano Poblano burger because of its blend of spicy ingredients - Angus beef topped apple-smoked bacon, Tillamook pepper jack, seared poblano peppers, chipotle mayo, red leaf lettuce, white onion and a beefsteak tomato. While not large in size, when the burger came out, it shined atop a glistening toasted fresh baked from scratch bun.

Whether or not they brought in all their finest chefs for the grand opening is not known, but this burger was enjoyable and more flavorful than the first one I tried in Austin last year. The bun was soft to the touch, yet toasted evenly. The meat was cooked to order at medium with a nice center of pink, complimented by a smoky charred crust and cheese melting over the sides. The red leaf lettuce (green in my opinion), onion and chipotle mayo was a nice match for the bacon, which could have been cooked just a tad longer. But bite to bite, this burger was quite good. While some might comment that the burger is not large in size, it was a very good value at $8.50. Hopdoddy is at a good price point, which is refreshing among the newer upscale burger establishments that have entered the market recently.

The true review of this burger will come once the grand-opening hype subsides. Only then can we tell if Hopdoddy will consistently serve a good burger at a good price. I look forward to another visit very soon, and I am hopeful that the burger i tried in Austin was the exception to the rule. And, kudos to co-founder (native Houstonian) Larry Perdio for sitting down and taking me through his journey back to Houston. We are definitely glad he found his way home.

The Llano Poblano Burger is an appetizing value at Hopdoddy Burger Bar just opened in River Oaks District.

The Llano Poblano Burger is an appetizing value at Hopdoddy Burger Bar just opened in River Oaks District.

Crispy thin Truffle Fries

Crispy thin Truffle Fries

Cheers to Eating More Burgers!

11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun. - Sat. 4444 Westheimer Rd., Suite H100. $